Exploring the literary themes in Bungou Stray Dogs

Parallels between High Card and Bungou Stray Dogs explored (1)

Bungou Stray Dogs weaves together a unique narrative that combines supernatural elements with the literary world. This thrilling and thought-provoking series not only captivates its audience with its dynamic characters and action-packed plot but also delves into various literary themes that enrich the storytelling. Let’s explore the literary themes in Bungou Stray Dogs.

Literary Etymology

Top 5 Abilities in Bungou Stray Dogs
Image courtesy of Studio Bones

One of the most distinctive aspects of BSD is how the characters are directly inspired by literary figures, mostly Japanese authors from the early 20th Century. For example, the main protagonist Nakajima Atsushi is named after Nakajima Atsushi, a Japanese writer known for his lyrical style. The ability user Edogawa Rampo is modelled after Edogawa Ranpo, the father of Japanese mystery fiction.

The characters’ supernatural powers are also derived from the literary style of their author counterparts. Understanding the real-world literary origins enriches the experience of exploring the themes in BSD. Such etymological derivations could be witnessed throughout the series in several instances.

The Search for Identity and Purpose

A major theme in BSD is the search for identity and purpose, exemplified by characters like the orphan Atsushi trying to find his place in the world. Many ability users struggle with understanding their powers and using them, ultimately failing to realize a ‘Purpose‘ for them. The true essence of Bungou Stray Dogs lies in the intricacies of the characters woven within the story.

The characters’ literal search for self is a metaphor for the universal journey of self-discovery. BSD suggests that like the literary masters they’re based on, each person must find their own inner voice and morals. Through its characters, Bungou Stray Dogs challenges the notion of good versus evil and delves into the gray areas of morality.

Twisting the Classic Tropes

Parallels between High Card and Bungou Stray Dogs explored (6)
Dazai, Atsushi and Kunikida from left to right (Bungou Stray Dogs) | Image Courtesy via IMDb

The clash between good and evil is central to the narrative as the Armed Detective Agency battles the Port Mafia and other villains. Every character confronts their moral alignment at some point, blurring the lines between hero and villain. Characters with conflicting personalities and traits are often thrown together to invoke an interesting dynamic.

The complex characterization examines how morality isn’t always black and white. The interplay between darkness and light questions traditional ideas of right versus wrong. It raises questions about the nature of justice and the lengths one is willing to go to achieve their goals, providing a thought-provoking commentary on society’s flaws and complexities.


With its literary inspirations, Bungou Stray Dogs weaves together themes of identity, morality, and belonging through the lives of its characters derived from authors of the past and other literary depictions. The overall theme of the series is perfectly encapsulated within the title of the series, which translates to ‘Literary Stray Dogs’.

While on one level a supernatural detective story, BSD also provides insight into the universal human condition that speaks to readers as profoundly as the works of the great masters. The series brings literature to life in modern anime form to explore profound questions of self-discovery, good versus evil, and what it means to find a family.

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